As part of the current exhibition, Protest Songs: Artful Actions at Lismore Regional Gallery and its sister exhibition, Artful Actions at Lismore City Hall, the gallery has commissioned two films by local filmmaker David Lowe which provide two very different portraits of Benny Zable and Greedozer/Fossil Fool, the iconic characters Benny plays in his protest performances.
‘Zable is a veteran environmental protester, peace activist and performance artist’, says gallery curator Kezia Geddes. ‘He has graced countless actions over his life-time, from Middle Head 1980, where Greedozer originated, to Occupy New York, through to recent Gas Fields Free protests. He is currently in New York City where he is performing at ECOFEST.’
Geddes says that Zable had a clear vision for what he wanted to contribute to the Protest Songs exhibition when he was invited to participate. ‘His idea was a video artwork of the dance he does when in character, but he wanted to be filmed in the clean, neutral space of an art gallery, a strikingly different setting from the unpredictable and unruly context of protests.’
Benny came to know local filmmaker David Lowe through his involvement with the Gas Fields Free protests in the Northern Rivers, and suggested Lowe as the filmmaker for the project.
The first film, Greedozer Meets Fossil Fool, is a slow and rhythmic dance as Zable turns his body so the audience can read the words on his costume and banners. His message provides a warning about the future of our planet if we continue to follow a path towards environmental devastation.
The second film, Behind the mask: Benny Zable speaks about his art, is an interview with Benny, with archival footage and images intercut. It provides a remarkable portrait of Benny Zable and his visionary approach to art and activism.
‘The interview was shot at the same time as the Benny Zable video installation now screening at the gallery’, says Lowe, the director of both projects.
Lowe, who is responsible for many of the photos and much of the footage to come out of the Bentley Blockade, says it was an honour to work with the legendary activist on the films.
‘Benny has been an inspiration for the way he’s combined art and activism for over thirty years. He’s sacrificed a lot to keep the risks to human and other life at the forefront of people’s minds at countless actions around the world, from the Franklin blockade to Bentley and beyond.
‘Congratulations must go to Kezia Geddes for getting Benny off the frontlines, at least momentarily, and into the gallery’, says Lowe. ‘While the whole amazing Benny story remains to be told on screen, Behind the Mask gives Benny a voice and reveals his extraordinary art and activism in a new light.’
Lowe has made numerous documentary films focusing on the Lock the Gate movement, including Undermining Australia: Coal vs Communities, Protect Our Land and Water (NSW Farmers) and the feature length music movie Rock the Gate! (Lock the Gate Northern Rivers).
Behind the Mask has just been accepted into the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival (USA).
The film will also be screening in support of Everyday Rebellion, an extraordinary new film about international activism, at Lismore Art Space on Wednesday August 27, at 6pm.
Both Protest Songs: Artful Actions at Lismore Regional Gallery and Artful Actions at Lismore City Hall will continue until September 6.
For more information, visit: www.lismoregallery.org.